The Malawi SmartNet Initiative

Vestergaard has also found a way to harness mobile technology to improve health outcomes by engaging with the users of its bednets. These are distributed to millions of people each year to protect them from malaria while they sleep. In fact, more than a quarter of a billion people sleep under one in Africa every night. However, bednet users don’t always use long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs), which means they are not fully protected against the disease.

The Malawi SmartNet Initiative uses mobile technology to gather critical information on users of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to eventually be able to educate users on how they can protect themselves from malaria. This data is then shared with users in the at-risk community to educated them on how to optimise their bednet usage to best protect themselves from malaria.

Vestergaard partnered in 2020 with the National Malaria Control Programme in Malawi and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) among others to launch our first at-scale pilot in the country.

Antenatal clinics distributed 300,000 ITNs that included a label with a shortcode inviting recipients to join the SmartNet participant network. After using the shortcode to dial in, recipients completed a survey via their mobile phone. Questions captured location, sociodemographic and geographic indicators, net usage and presence of malaria-like illnesses.

This ongoing project represents one of the largest conducted in malaria control within the Malawi context. While generalisability of the data is still being determined, the project reveals the opportunities in Malawi to engage directly with communities impacted by malaria via a two-way dialogue that provides valuable health messaging while collecting important information in real time.

Vestergaard is harnessing technology to improve health outcomes and help end malaria in Africa.